General Heartbreak

An Interview with Ashley Thompson

We met 2 years ago at  Con Artist Collective when you had just finished school. Before then, I had seen a couple of your paintings in an exhibition at CA and I was struck by your use of surrealistic, pop iconography within the faded, pastel context of Asian-American imagery seen frequently throughout Chinatown.

April 19, 2017

You had brought up the term "Third Culture Kid" which sounded like a stateless, ambiguous frame of mind.  A few months ago I started seeing hand-written cursive stickers on a faded blue-green background by @generalheartbreak along Canal Street, Grand Street and Allen Street - to name a few. I looked up the handle on Instagram and somehow it led back to you.  Can you refresh me on your painting? And then how that led to this series of ephemeral, hand-written stickers?

Ashley Thompson:  I am a retired painter. The writing just poured out of me… it was a sudden and effortless transition that came immediately after the election.

Jill Conner:  Do you feel that being a "Third Culture Kid" gives you more flexibility in working within different media?

Ashley Thompson:  Since the election, people have been more open to what I have been saying all along.

Jill Conner:  Are these stickers being documented?  The first one I saw was "I am a lazy princess," followed by "I love you fiercely but you are not everything to me."

Left: February 16, 2017.  Right: April 1, 2017.

Ashley Thompson:  No. I no longer document my work. I make hundreds of art objects every week which I distribute freely. Other people can document my work if they feel that it is interesting and worthwhile to them. I put up over a thousand stickers in Manhattan. Now that I live in Queens again, my work has moved to Queens.

Jill Conner:  What inspired you to move into text art?  They read like fragments of poems or grocery store romance novels.

Ashley Thompson:  I compulsively write. I have hundreds of journals filled with poetry that I had never shown anybody. Suddenly it was time to share bits of my poetry with the world.

Jill Conner:  Are you competing with graffiti artists?

Ashley Thompson:  No. I am a non-competitive artist. I have no desire to succeed in the art world, or to be better or more popular than anyone else. I feel filled with endless joy and light, which i try to share with others. My goal is to uplift my neighborhood through art. I give everything away.

April 19, 2017.

Jill Conner:  Who is your target audience?

Ashley Thompson:  Anybody.

Jill Conner:  Is this better than painting? I personally find it more interesting than going to a white-walled gallery.

Ashley Thompson:  It isn’t better or worse, just different. My goal is to continually surprise myself.

Jill Conner:  The stickers, themselves, also read like fortune cookies - a marketing phenomenon that only exists in America at Chinese restaurants. Is there a similar type of nonexistent object, or illusion, that these messages point to?

Ashley Thompson:  Yes.  Keep searching.

Jill Conner:  A complimentary set of yellow stickers also appeared recently by @mylifein.yellow and reflect statements with a similar tone - almost identical: "She took hold of the hand you let go." Is this an extension of @generalheartbreak?

Ashley Thompson:  No.

Jill Conner:  What about the avocado?

Ashley Thompson:  It is native to Mexico.

Jill Conner:  Aside from the street, where can someone see your art and follow your work? It sounds like your portfolio is growing rapidly. 

Ashley Thompson:  My archive is good place to view the process and trajectory of my work. I also have a soundcloud of bedtime poems to fall asleep to. (Some of my poems are good, some are bad, but they are all inspired.) And I have a few secret archives which I will reveal in time, maybe. But more and more I will rely on people like you to document and share my work, as a way to empower the viewer, and let go of my ego.  

You'll see more and more "coincidences" in the hours, weeks, and months to come. Remember, eat with the eyes.